Schermerhorn Hall came into being in 1895, as the result of a donation from William C. Schermerhorn, chairman of the university's Board of Trustees at the time. Descended from the city's original Dutch settlers who eventually became shipping tycoons, Mr. Schermerhorn was a Columbia College alumni (class of 1840) who also served on the boards of the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The building was designed by the firm of McKim, Mead, & White, the same architects of Low Library and many other campus buildings, and construction began on the foundation and lower levels later that year, with the official dedication and cornerstone ceremony being held on May 2, 1896, presided over by President Low, with Mr. Schermerhorn and many others in attendance (picture below).
The lower levels were primarily devoted to museum and lab space for the geology and mineralogy departments while the remaining departments competed for space in the floors above. The crowding became so acute over the ensuing decades that the university was forced to add the Schermerhorn Extension, funded by a $1 million donation from the original Mr. Schermerhorn's nephew, F. August Schermerhorn (class of 1868). The building was also designed by McKim, Mead, & White, and was complete by the beginning of Fall 1929. As can be seen in the original plans below, even the simple floorplan of the extension has been adapted over time. 963 Schermerhorn, the present location of our classroom, was then 962, which included two storage closets and a door into an adjoining lab.